Pakistan: Punjab Young Doctors’ Association calls strike for May 11

The Young Doctor’s Association (YDA) of Punjab has announced they are starting a protest movement and taking strike action once again from May 11 in defence of their demands. Earlier the YDA Punjab had led a strike which lasted for around one and a half months and was called off on the promise made by the Punjab Chief Minister that all their demands would be met.

The Chief Minister was given 15 days to issue notification of the acceptance of the demands. But one month has passed and the government of the Punjab has taken no steps in that direction, forcing the doctors to go to come out on strike again. During a press conference on May 5 at the Services hospital in Lahore, the President of the YDA Punjab, Dr. Hamid Butt, said that if their demands were not met the YDA would resume their strike again on May 11 and they would not provide their services for the inpatient or outpatient departments in all government hospitals across the Punjab. The strike will not be held in critical areas to facilitate the treatment of patients in emergency situations, intensive care units (ICU), critical care units (CCU) ICU, CCU, delivery rooms and other such departments.

Earlier, on May 4, a convention of the YDA Punjab was held in the auditorium of the Allama Iqbal Medical College Lahore in which members and the leadership of the YDA participated. It was also attended by delegates from YDA Sindh, YDA Balochistan, YDA Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw, and political, social and media personalities. Thousands of Young Doctors participated from all over the Punjab. The auditorium was full beyond its capacity and revolutionary slogans were being raised.

The main point of discussion during the convention was class solidarity. It was discussed that this movement should not be limited to the Punjab, but rather should be spread across Pakistan involving workers and the unions from other sections of healthcare like the Nursing staff, Paramedics, pharmacists. The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign announced its complete solidarity and support for the movement and distributed a leaflet at the convention to show its support.

A senior doctor from Lahore General Hospital, Dr. Omar Adil, said in his speech that the YDA should rely on its own strength and involve other workers like them instead of putting their trust and hopes in the corporate media and so called political personalities. The role of the media has been and will be to defame this movement at the behest of the state and its institutions. The media never solves any problem; rather it uses such issues to distort the facts and to make money. He said that all columnists writing in newspapers are paid writers and represent the interests of different capitalists. Only a fool would expect anything from them. He criticized the Members of Parliament of the PPP and Muslim League (Q) and said that when in opposition the political leaderships make statements in support of such movements but when they come into power they turn a blind eye. And when the ruling party becomes the opposition it starts supporting these movements. He said that the PPP has turned murderers into leaders, so how can it solve our problems? The PPP is leading the federal government and is creating problems for doctors in Sindh. He criticized the principal of the Allama Iqbal Medical College, Dr. Javed Malik, and said that all his family is in the Chief Minister’s pocket and he is showing sham support for this movement and is trying to sell the movement out.

The President of the YDA, Dr. Hamid Butt, said in his speech that if the demands were not met they would involve other trade unions and take this movement to its extremes. The YDA Punjab is going into the strike this time with an even more militant stance. The demand for a raise in salary is not unreasonable at all. Giving the pay raise to 22,000 doctors working in the Punjab would cost the government Rs.5.28 Billion per year, but the government has turned the question into one of prestige and solving such problems has never been a priority for the government. The state which spends just 0.5% of the budget on health is not willing to meet the demands of the doctors to improve the health sector in the Punjab. He said that their manoeuvres to break the YDA movement will fail. He said that the Punjab’s Law minister, Rana Sanaullah, is threatening them and is planning to use brutal repressive measures, but the doctors are not afraid of such threats. Any repression this time will be met in the same way and we will fight till the fall of this government that is led by a hypocrite and a pharaoh chief minister.

The president of the YDA, Sindh Abbas Shah, said that doctors of Sindh stand shoulder to shoulder with the doctors of the Punjab and there will be a movement in Sindh as well. He said that attempts are being made to break this movement along ethnic lines but we will assure this fails and all the young doctors in Pakistan will be united on one platform in order to improve the health sector in the country. He said that he was dismissed from his job by the government of Sindh in punishment for his trade union activities but he is determined and would not give up the struggle for this great purpose.

The president of the YDA Balochistan, Dr. Asim Mengal, said that in Balochistan there are attempts to limit this struggle along nationalist lines and accusations are being thrown around that some foreign hand is involved but this convention has proven them wrong. When he asked the audience whether they were with the people of Balochistan, thousands of youngsters in the hall raised their hands and said yes. In Balochistan the doctors’ strike is in its eight day, but the government is refusing to meet their demands. He said that the Chief Minister of Balochistan is the Chief Pharaoh and the greatest enemy of the people just like that of Punjab.

A young doctor from Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw read out the messages from the young doctors of his province. Doctors are on strike in Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw and are fighting for their demands. In the messages it stated that the YDA Punjab has shown us the path to struggle and young doctors in Pakhtoonkhaw are inspired by the struggle of the YDA Punjab and support them. The YDA Federal, Dr. Ajmal, also expressed solidarity with the YDA Punjab and said that a nationwide YDA Pakistan should be formed. He spoke about the struggle of the federal YDA and how they forced the federal Government to accept their demands.

The chairman of the YDA Punjab’s general council, Dr. Haroon, and others also addressed the convention and emphasized the need for solidarity among all young doctors and to step up the struggle. A photo report about the abysmal state of healthcare in Punjab showing the poor conditions in government hospitals and the poverty of doctors was also shown. It was shown that in very difficult conditions in emergency and operation theatres they work around the clock. There is no clean drinking water for the patients, let alone medicines; on the other hand the latest cars and palaces are being built for the rulers and there is no shortage of funds for that. It was shown that the taxpayers’ money was being spent on the sumptuousness of the rulers. If the capitalists and landlords are taxed and these brutal rulers are overthrown, every person in the country would be able to get free and quality treatment. It was shown that the demands of the doctors were reasonable but the Punjab’s Chief Pharaoh is the enemy of the people and does not want to improve the conditions of the people, whereas he has plenty to give to the capitalists and landlords.

In the speeches it was explained that the government made promises during the last strike that lasted 37 days. The doctors withdrew from the emergency services only after they were beaten by the police and their colleagues were put in jail. It was explained that the government is responsible for the trouble faced by the patients. It was demanded that there should be a ban on the rulers getting treatment abroad and they should get treatment from the government hospitals. The convention was concluded with revolutionary slogans and the young doctors vowed to fight for their rights and an improvement in the healthcare sector in the country.